In the wake of the condofication of downtown Austin, one casualty looks like it might be one of Austin’s most unique institutions. Las Manitas began as a taco stand over twenty-five years ago, and soon grew into a downtown haven for politicos, celebrities, and working folk alike. It is still a venue when, during the Session, Texas law is hashed out–so to speak–over a steaming plate of huevos rancheros. The owners of Las Manitas, the Perez sisters, even founded a daycare center next door to Las Manitas for their employees’ children, the Escuelita del Alma Learning Center.

So long

Well, after White Lodging Services Corp. bought the block upon which Las Manitas and Escuelita del Alma is located, it was soon announced that the $250 million Marriot hotel complex planned to be constructed there would displace several businesses, including Las Manitas and Escuelita del Alma.

To their credit, the City of Austin tried to do a good thing by pushing through a controversial $750,000 partially forgivable loan aimed at helping the Perez sisters move their iconic restaurant one block north on Congress Ave. However, the otherwise favorable terms of the loan generated a chorus of criticism locally for handing out a huge subsidy to a private business, particularly when the city is facing a $27 million budget deficit.

Among the terms of the loan was a requirement that Las Manitas to stay in business for two decades, when the sisters would be in their 70s. Accordingly, the Perez sisters announced on August 17, 2007, that they were rejecting the city’s loan offer. Their spokesperson, Elyse Yates, said that now, all options were on the table, including the idea of going back to selling tacos from a street stand.

Thx to the Austin Business Journal and Texas Politics